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Caring For Senior Cats

Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, today’s cats can live well into
their teen years. It is not uncommon for cats to live to be 18 or even older. 
However, in order for cats to live a long full life, they need proactive 
veterinary care to stay healthy.

As cats age, they are at greater risk for chronic diseases and health 
complications. However, cats are also masters at hiding illness. Semi-annual
veterinary appointments are the best way to monitor a cat’s well being. 
For a senior cat, six months can be the equivalent of two years – a number 
of health changes can happen during this period.

During a wellness exam, a veterinarian will check a cat’s weight and body 
condition, skin and coat quality, eyes, ears, thyroid, heart, lungs, joints, 
mouth and abdomen. A veterinarian may also conduct diagnostic blood 
work and parasite screenings. While physical changes are easily noticed 
(e.g., weight loss or change in coat quality), internal changes are more 
difficult to detect. Diagnostic tests provide an important snapshot of a cat’s 
internal health and can detect problems such as hyperthyroidism and kidney 

Feline hyperthyroidism and kidney problems are the most common health 
conditions affecting older cats. Hyperthyroidism affects many organs in the 
body, including the heart. Hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary heart 
disease as well as hypertension (high blood pressure). Kidney disease can 
also cause hypertension. Your veterinarian can check for this during your 
cat's exam. Blood  tests during a semi-annual wellness screening are the 
best way to detect hyperthyroidism and kidney problems. With early 
diagnosis, medical treatments can be very successful in managing these 
disease.  These are examples  of why proactive veterinary care is so important 
for senior cats.

Wellness exams are also an opportunity to evaluate a cat’s dietary needs. 
As cats age, their nutritional needs change.  For example, cats with kidney 
problems should have a diet low in protein and phosphorus. Less active 
cats may need to be fed less in order to prevent weight gain and obesity. 
Other cats may become disinterested in food, resulting in weight loss. Cats 
that lose their sense of taste and smell may also lose interest in eating. 
Unfortunately, gradual weight loss can also go unnoticed, especially for 
longhaired cats. This is why nutrition evaluations and regular weigh-ins 
are so important.

Just like humans, cats will have different wellness needs as they age. 
Some cats may need a special diet while other cats may need medication 
to manage a chronic disease. Your veterinarian will make specific 
recommendations based on your cat’s wellness needs.

American Association of Feline Practitioners. Friends for Life, Caring for 
your Older Cat.
Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Hyperthyroidism in Cats.

Does My Cat Need Senior Care?

Could your cat benefit from senior care? Like people, cats all age at 
different rates. Generally speaking, senior cats are between the ages 
of 11 to 14 years, which is the equivalent of 60 to 72 years for humans. 
Look out for the following age-related changes in your cat’s behavior:

•    Drinking more water than normal
•    More urine in the litter box than normal
•    Weight loss, may occur in spite of a ravenous appetite
•    Nails that don't shed, and grow into their pads
•    Change in appetite or unwillingness to eat
•    Changes in litter box habits
•    Changes in behavior and mood

These are signs that your cat needs additional veterinary care.

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